New Smarthings Layout with 200 devices (Europe)

(Martin Borg) #1


I am in the process of introducing a new home automation system to cover basically everything in my house: lighting, dimming of said lighting, several actuators to cover a number of pumps and solenoids for gas and underfloor heating and irrigation, blinds and awnings, garage door and gate, cooling, motion sensing, temperature sensing, door/window sensing, water sensing, gas sensors, smoke and CO sensors, intruder alarm, etc.

It’s a fairly large house (ok perhaps not so large but I’ve run away with my imagination in terms of the level of automation we want in the house), and so when I added up everything, it seems that I will have around 200 devices in total. There is a basement, which has a few walls as it has a laundry room, a data room, a bathroom, a store, the pool balance tank, a pool pump room, and the garage. There are a few walls in the basement. The ground floor - where there will be a lot of tech, is open plan - practically no walls. The first floor has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a walk-in wardrobe, and a landing/hall area. Ground and First Floors are about 1200 square feet each, whereas the basement is quite big - about 3600square feet.

I think that if I place the hub centrally, somewhere in the middle of the ground floor (which of course is between the basement and the first floor), I should be able to reach any device anywhere in 3 hops, so I feel confident about this.

What I am less confident about is: Can SmartThings handle 205 devices? Never mind the official version that Z-Wave can handle up to 231 devices - that’s just the protocol, but can the Smartthings hub processor handle so many devices attached to it? Or should I be looking elsewhere? Many have told me to look at ired systems - but this is out of the question for me. The house is newly finished and there is not wired for a home automation system.

Has anyone seen a system this big, and do you think Smartthings is able to handle this level of workload and complexity?

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #2

There are definitely more than a few SmartThings customers with ~200+ Things, and hopefully a few will chime in and express their level of satisfaction - or frustration.

Personally, I would say that you need to have extraordinary patience and problem isolation / analysis skills if you exceed 100 Things. Such patience may be rewarded in the form of a powerful flexible smart home for a remarkably low cash outlay.

But, I fear, odds are that you will find it to be a very stressful experience if you’re not prepared for an ongoing challenge.

Simple but concrete example: There is no backup/restore/migration facility (yet: It’s been 3 years…). If your Hub has a simple hardware failure, or you wish to upgrade, or your SmartThings Location record is corrupted (I don’t know the odds), then you will have to manually rebuild your entire environment (add Things, Rooms, Scenes, and Automations) from scratch.

(Barry) #3

My largest environment today consists of 233+ devices, a mixture of ZigBee, WiFi, Virtual and Cloud-based devices.

The issues related to rebuilding your environment are immense - I have had to do it twice at my largest location, and it took WEEKS to complete, even though I had both the old- and new- running at the same time (not necessarily an advised approach, as this can cause serious issues with Z-Wave devices).

On top of that, changing batteries gets to be old…it seems there is always one sensor somewhere whose batteries have died - often without any notice from SmartThings. For example, I found an open/close sensor with a dead battery yesterday - SmartThings “Recently” showed no activity for more than a week, but also reported the battery as 84% full (it was actually dead). So you’ll need to be prepared to set aside a day every so often just to do battery checks and replacements.

Given the scope of your environment, I also advise you to be very careful which ZigBee channel your hub uses when you first install it. With so many devices, the noise from WiFi can cause havoc with your remote sensors…It will be IMPERATIVE that your home WiFi channel(s) do not overlap your hub’s Zigbee channel. And since you can’t select the Zigbee channel your hub uses, you may find yourself needing to delete/add the hub repeatedly until it (randomly) chooses a channel that you prefer for your environment. And make sure your WiFi router and ST hub are as far apart as possible.

That said, I don’t think you need to focus so much on where you locate your hub - it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the “ideal” location, because both Zigbee and ZWave will mesh/route very well. I myself had intentionally kept my hub in the center of my house, but due to signal noise, I started moving it around to see where it worked best. Surprisingly, down in the basement turned out to be the best spot, even though I have a 4-floor house (3 story with a basement). Everything seems to route well with minimal delays, even though the highest device is 4 stories away (in the attic, controlling the heater for my weather station).

YMMV, of course, but if you’re really into this hobby, you should be fine, even despite the inevitable fact that sooner or later you WILL rebuild your entire environment from scratch (there is clearly no hope for SmartThings to provide a backup/restore/relocate/rebuild capability to us after all these years.

(Barry) #4

One more thing about Zigbee/Z=Wave routing: I advise that you use a mixture of Zigbee and Z-Wave-based wall switches, and not just using one version or the other. This will help to ensure good coverage of both mesh/networks throughout your home, and hopefully minimize any latency in command responses from ALL of your devices.

(Jimmy) #5

One minor thing is that the Things list in the classic app maxes out at 200. But you can add devices to Rooms and see them.

(Martin Borg) #6

This is the worst part.

I do not foresee having too many battery operated devices as door/window sensors will be the “10 year” “disposable” ones (I assume at the end of their lifetime I’ll be thinking of a different system). So the only battery-type devices that need battery changing will likely be multi-sensors (like Aeotec’s) and water / flood sensors. It’s still some 30 sensors, but not a back breaking job. Let’s say after a year I assume I will be changing like 6 batteries a month, max…

But not having a backup, or a clear migration and / or upgrade path without all the manual re-creation is quite a pain. Not being able to expand the system beyond 231 (Z-wave) devices is also a little concerning. I just hope I will have covered all of the obvious requirements, and that there is little I can automate beyond that.

I am not a developer, albeit having an IT background. I’ve ordered a small kit, a hub and 4 devices, to test range and functionality. It’s a small expense if I compare it to the total. Hoping I’ll find the necessary help here.

(Martin Borg) #7

That’s odd. Should Samsung not treat that as a flaw, if not a bug?

(Martin Borg) #8

To be honest with you I was thinking of limiting it to Z-Wave after reading how many people experienced interference with WiFi. I have two WiFi SSIDs at home, one on 5 and one on 2.4 GHz range (the internal one and the guest network, respectively). And I am afraid the latter one would end up causing much interference.

And again - this is the most worrying part. The lack of a backup and migration /; rebuild path is very worrying. I would have thought Smartthings’s association with Harman last March would help develop a better roadmap, but alas it seems there’s no word about this as yet.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #9

It’s a nightmare except for trivial environments (which, frankly, perhaps covers 80% to 90% of SmartThings customers, so that surely keeps the priority low). There’s rumors that progress is being made internally on this.

The chances of Hub failure or other Location reset are definitely non-zero. No matter how helpful Support might be at rushing you a new Hub or whatever, nothing can help rebuild your configuration. For a 200+ device home with proportionate automations, I can’t imagine the total time.

I believe that WebCoRE has one layer to de-references your Things … so at least your Pistons don’t need to be completely rebuilt - just assigned to the replacement devices (due to their new Location IDs and Device IDs).

(Martin Borg) #10

That’s way too bad and almost scary already.

I will of course need to document everything very, very carefully then. I understand what you mean (well, except for the part about the pistons of WebCoRE - which I have read about but so far never seen myself).

As I said - I am not a developer, so maybe I’m going down the wrong path - but I did do quite a bit of scripting and / or development in the distant past, so I am not totally green either. I’ll see what I can do with the first few devices, and fingers crossed that I will manage something. I am hoping that if I document literally every bit of configuration that I do - then re-building would mean going through it and re-configuring everything as per configuration rather than trying to remember everything from scratch :slight_smile:

(Doug) #11

I’m taking the long view on this one, amazon is willing to work with ST and so is google, ST continues to add new devices and expand both their platform and from what we read here the people developing it. A backup option will come, more expandability will come, new devices will come, the money of the largest corporations in the world at the forefront of innovation is invested in this particular area and so long as Samsung funds the ST department and staffs it well we will see a much more in depth and integrated smart home and smart things controller in due time.

(Barry) #12

I would strongly advise against going the z-wave only route (I wouldn’t do it now even if I could). A little up-front effort will avoid the signal noise issues altogether.

Zigbee only overlaps with some of the WiFi channels in the 2.4 GHz range. For me, my ST hub runs on channel 24, which is overlapped by WiFi Channel 11. That gives me 10 other channels to use for mi WiFi network - plenty of room for both.

Zigbee is really much better than Zwave imho, especially for battery-powered devices. Importantly, the mesh automatically adapts, and in my experience the response times are better.

And FWIW, I found it easier to rebuild my Zigbee devices than my ZWave ones, because I could use a different zigbee channel for my new hub, while ZWave has only one channel, causing problems trying to delete and repair the devices.

Bottom line though is that unless you are prepared to invest your time keeping things working, the technology probably isn’t ready for your use case.

(Ron Talley) #13

A nice blend of Z-Wave and Zigbee devices is what I would recommend. For zigbee, the plug in modules work a treat. I would also highly recommend looking into the Hubitat Hub to complement your setup. This has helped my setup become more stable than it has ever been.

I am a 200+ devices user and the things that I have accomplished have far exceeded my expectations going in. I still have a lot I want to do but unlike you, I can’t afford “financially or time-wise” to do it all at once.

I will say, that there are some smart switches and dimmers out there that offers alot of bang for buck with extra features such as double tapping all the way to five times in either direction! You can also consider hard-wiring as many devices as possible to keep battery maintenance at bay. Even those sensor that were not designed for hard wiring can be. For example, I have 4 Zooz Multi-Sensor that I was constantly changing the batteries in. I finally decided to hardwire them and haven’t had any other maintenance.

Good thing is that you are doing the work now and asking for advice. One of the biggest mistakes I have made is buying redundant sensors where I could have saved some money with proper placement and multi-purpose sensors.

Finally, some things are better off left “dumb”. For example, I automated one of my closets with a contact, motion and smartswitch for $50+. The only thing this does is turn on the light when someones enters the closet and of course turns it off when no motion is detected after a certain period. I have a matching closet that has a $12 occupancy “dumb” sensor on it that does the same thing. Guess which one works better with zero issues?

(Eric) #14

sure. You should set aside a few months to install, and about a day per week to maintain.

(Joe) #15

I have almsot 200 and no virtual anything they are all physical worked great till this damn conversion.

(Joe) #16

Being a little cynical. Batteries don’t die that fast. I have to deal with my 186 devices maybe 3 times a month. Yes rare occasion I might need to do something as osram light bulbs love to go off line very frequent, so that’s the only thing other then batteries to deal with once you have it all set up.

(Alex) #17

Re ZigBee and Wifi there is a great article here:

@martin.borg - You could simply look at where your ZigBee channel for both ST and HUE (or other if you plan on using them) are and then configure your WiFi to stay away from those frequencies. I did that at first but then installed 4 APs in the house and ignored the ZigBee channels as I was not seeing any issues and I needed to spread my Wifi channels between 1, 6 and 11. I kept my 2.4GHz channels to 20MHz width as I only connect low bandwidth devices to 2.4GHz. Anything needing more bandwidth goes on the 5GHz SSID where I set 80MHz+ channel width.

I have also strategically installed several plug-in ZigBee outlets around the house to build a reliable mesh network that the battery sensors can rely on. Hindsight it would have been best to adopt ZigBee in wall outlets instead to avoid them being disconnected or moved by family… as doing so would have a negative effect on your ZigBee mesh network. Most of my ZigBee devices are battery operated so be building out a strong mesh backbone is critical to their proper operation (and longer battery longevity!).

I would also try to stick with the latest generation of Zwave Plus devices that support network wide inclusion. S2 is also ideal if you care about security but I am not too sure that ST currently supports it. I just purchased my first 11 HomeSeer HS-WD200+ dimmers to replace my older Leviton Vizia RF+ dimmers. They are the latest and greatest in terms of supporting the newest Zwave features (according to Zwave Product Alliance web page).

As @rontalley mentioned some things really do not need to be automated, or you can do so in a more optimized way. As an example, a closet light can be automated by a “dumb motion switch” or you can buy a sensor and a zwave switch which may end up being less reliable and slower to respond. I found a way in between (cost and reliability) which consists in the first Zwave Plus Motion Light Switch released by Jasco/GE. It reacts realy as fast as a dumb motion sensor, but it also is a Zwave device. I can use the motion sensor in the switch for other purposes and can control the light switch via ST.

(Joe) #18

New mesh routers will avoid and change if necessary the channels for wifi if crowded own it’s on. Google wifi at least I know does this quite well.

(Eric) #19

I have 350+ ZigBee, Zwave, WiFi, Virtual devices.

If I had to guess…:

ZigBee: 125
Zwave: 125
WiFi: 65
Virtual: 50

No major volume issues except that ST is shit so it doesn’t always handle that many devices and it took me 2 years to realize the my devices page in the IDE had pagination cause it only shows 200 devices. And no backup sucks. I’m worried. If I lose my hub I might just buy a new house.

(Martin Borg) #20

I’m not doing it all at once, but I have planned it out on paper only - it will likely take months to complete :slight_smile: